The month of July, it should be noted, is not high school volleyball season. Not even close. It’s not even high school season, for that matter.
But for the better part of two months already, the Mennonite Educational Institute boys volleyball squad has been hard at work, gearing up for a once-in-a-lifetime trip to China.
The Eagles have been selected to represent Canada at the Beijing International Volleyball Tournament – an event which runs July 18-25, bringing together high school teams from 16 nations.
“There’s Brazil, Russia, Italy, France – all the top volleyball countries are represented, which is awesome,” marveled MEI head coach Jordan Geransky.
“It’s a pretty amazing opportunity, and it kind of came out of nowhere.
“We were in the middle of club season, with everyone on different teams, and suddenly I had to call a meeting at the school to let them know we had to try out now. It’s really unorthodox.”
MEI boys volleyball is one of the more impressive dynasties on the B.C. high school sports scene – the Eagles have climbed the podium at 11 straight AA provincial championships, winning eight gold medals, one silver and two bronzes in that span. Additionally, the junior boys squad is coming off a B.C. title in 2012. Being selected for the Beijing tourney adds to that legacy.
Geransky trimmed an initial list of 25 hopefuls down to 12 for the trip to China, with three additional roster spots reserved for fall tryouts.
In addition to the volleyball, the cultural opportunities will be amazing.
“They’re touring us all around Beijing when we’re not playing – we’re seeing the Great Wall, the Forbidden City,” Geransky noted.
“For some of our guys, this will be their only chance to play international volleyball, and that’s going to be absolutely amazing. For other guys, they hope to play national team and pursue that, and it’s an awesome opportunity for them to get a first taste.”
Playing high-calibre volleyball abroad while their B.C. rivals are relaxing on summer vacation figures to serve the Eagles well when the high school season opens in September.
“I think it’s really going to benefit us,” said Ben Lieuwen, who plays left side and is going into Grade 12 in the fall. “We’ll come back in September a little bit more polished, not as rusty.
“I think this trip will open our eyes to what we can accomplish this season. Getting invited to an international tournament means we do have talent on this team. We’re going to try to go all the way and go for gold in the fall.”